What Are the Six Themes of Existentialism?


Martha Robinson

Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual freedom and choice. It is a way of thinking that focuses on the human experience and the individual’s search for meaning in life. There are six themes of existentialism that help to define this philosophy.

1. Freedom and Responsibility

Existentialists believe that individuals have complete freedom to make choices in their lives. With this freedom, however, comes responsibility for the consequences of those choices. This means accepting responsibility for one’s own actions and recognizing that every decision has an impact on one’s life.

2. Authenticity

Authenticity is the idea that individuals must be true to themselves and their own values. It means rejecting societal norms and expectations in favor of personal beliefs and desires. Through authenticity, individuals can achieve a sense of fulfillment and purpose in life.

3. Existence Precedes Essence

This theme asserts that individuals are not born with a predetermined purpose or essence, but rather create their own through their experiences and choices in life. Existentialists reject the idea of a fixed human nature or destiny, instead focusing on the uniqueness of each individual.

4. Anxiety and Dread

Anxiety and dread are common experiences for individuals who embrace existentialism. The realization that there is no inherent meaning or purpose in life can be overwhelming, leading to feelings of uncertainty and fear. However, these emotions are seen as necessary for personal growth and exploration.

5. Death

Death is a central theme in existentialism as it forces individuals to confront their own mortality and the finite nature of life. Rather than fearing death, existentialists use it as motivation to live fully in the present moment.

6. The Absurd

The absurd refers to the idea that life is inherently meaningless and irrational, yet humans still strive to find purpose and meaning. This theme challenges individuals to create their own meaning in life, even in the face of a seemingly absurd existence.

In conclusion, these six themes are the building blocks of existentialism. By embracing freedom and responsibility, authenticity, the idea that existence precedes essence, anxiety and dread, death, and the absurd, individuals can create their own unique purpose and find fulfillment in life.